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The Eagle Has Landed

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Lift off of Apollo 11

‘In 1969, a group of astronauts changed the world.  They ride the biggest rocket ever built, to the moon.  It’s the culmination of more than 10 years of space pioneering, and a foundation for more than four decades of exploring worlds beyond our own.  This is the story of our greatest adventure.’

Today marks the 44th anniversary of the first steps of man on the moon.  As I said in my last post, I am a child of the shuttle.  By the time I was born, Apollo 17 had finished the final lunar mission (unless you buy all the clap-trap about Apollo 18).  I have spent the past year learning about our early space program, and every new tidbit I learn only serves to deepen my respect and awe for what we accomplished.  We landed on the freakin’ moon!

I wonder if we would have been in such a rush if it weren’t for two things.  First, President Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon.  On May 25, 1961, Kennedy issued a challenge for us to reach the goal of ‘landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.’  The genesis behind this challenge was the announcement that cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had made it to outer space, edging out the United States by only a few weeks.  It is not a far stretch to say that almost anything of significance the United States did from the mid-40’s to the mid-80’s was in response to the Russians, and the Cold War was a strong driver of our race to space.

Second, Kennedy was assassinated.  Galvanized by the memory of this young president, we charged forward.

Once on the moon, we gathered lunar material for study back home.  Charlie Duke, an astronaut on Apollo 16, and the CapCom for Apollo 11, commented that, ‘Kennedy’s challenge was that we would land on the moon and return safely.  Didn’t say anything about picking up any rocks.  Just said land on the moon.  But if you’re going to land on the moon, you ought to pick up some rocks!’  I have adapted that quote in my professional life when I need to point out that if we are going to go this far, we might as well go all the way.

There are a great number resources available for those of you who wish to learn about our greatest adventure.  Anytime you feel discouraged by humanity, I encourage you to look at the moon missions, starting with Project Mercury, to Gemini, and finally Apollo. Then the icing on the cake, at least for me, are the STS and Space Station.

I dedicate this post to Commander Neil Armstrong.  This is the first Apollo anniversary we well celebrate where he is as he was 44 years ago.  Not on this Earth.

And so it goes.

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